"Hey, Jeremy, looks like we caught someone in our net. Looks awfully pale, don't you think?", the hooded woman squinted at the pale, shriveled figure caught between the net and several splintered planks, chipped bricks, and the like.
"Strangely dressed and awfully shriveled, too.", the bald man looked up at the sky, the sun at its peak, "It's about time we made our way back to the village, anyway. Let's get the poor guy out of the junk first, though.", at that, they dug through the scraps, throwing anything that wasn't worth hauling back to the village aside. After some time, the two of them were able to haul the stranger aboard before raising the sails to make the trip back to the village.
"Been less and less people washing ashore lately", he spoke absentmindedly, "But, perhaps that's a good thing. Getting proper materials for build new homes each time a newcomer shows up is awfully tiring. I mean, come on, the fishers at the docks only ever bring in cloth and the rare spool of thread! Kale could at least try to deal with the other villages for materials, you know?", Jeremy ranted, albeit with less anger and more tiredness in his tone.
"Well, not like we have much else to do. Not many willing to go out on the ocean, too. I suppose there's what Willis does, exploring the giant's ribcage, but-", she pondered for a moment, "Well, one of these days, Willis is going to get himself buried, you know how he is. Even so, exploring has never interested me. Mind you, looks like we're almost there."
As she finished speaking, the silver snow-coated peaks began to poke over horizon. They relaxed their pace a bit as the docks came into view. Lining the bottom of the snow-coated village, the docks consisted of assorted planks and scraps mostly scavenged from the workshop. The workshop, Kale's domain, is easily the largest building in the entire village, not that it means much. Mostly constructed of metal, the workshop juts out from the side of the village like a tangent in the middle of the cascading staircases and winding pathways that lead up to the peak of the village. Back at the docks, several fishers sat at its edge, a couple of them clearly frustrated even from this distance. Noticing the returning crew, a few of them looked up and waved. The hooded woman breathed a sigh of relief when she spotted what appeared to be Willis' raft behind the fishers, though she silently wondered why Willis would bother to move his raft all the way over there.
As they finally reached the docks, those few fishers abandoned their posts to greet the returning crew as they carefully hauled the unconscious fellow out of the boat. Two of them, noticing the stranger, stepped up, offering to take the stranger off their hands, "Don't worry, we'll carry them up for you. Haven't been catching much today, anyway."
The remaining fisher, a fellow in a blue tunic, greeted them, "Jeremy, Dorothy, welcome back! You wouldn't believe how many spools of yarn Carter caught today,", he pointed to a bucket filled with assorted colors of thread sitting next to a very intensely focused fisher, "I swear, Kale is going to lose his mind."
Jeremy chuckled, "Yeah, knowing Kale. Anyway, did Willis already set off? I was going to check on his raft, but it looks like he already-", at this comment, Dorothy became confused for but a moment. Looking back at the boat she'd seen previously, she came to the realization that it wasn't Willis' raft, rather, it looked to be the one Kale had been working on as of late.
The fisher in blue interrupted, nodding soberly, "Yeah, he did. Tried to stop him, but, well…", the fisher shrugged, "You know how he is."
With an aggravated roar, Dorothy removed her hood and bellowed, "That dumbass! I swear, one of these days, he's going to trip and fall right into the sand, what with that 'adventurous spirit' of his.", she turned to Jeremy, "We should probably make sure he doesn't do just that. Once we unload the net."
Jeremy nodded in response, but before the two could start unloading, the fisher in blue stopped them, "Leave it to me. Kale just finished working on the new boat, over there,", he pointed to the rather impressive looking vessel on the other side of the docks, "Take that. It's better to look for him now than later."
Glancing at the cascade of staircases where the stranger was still being hauled up and to the workshop where Kale no doubt was working on something new, Jeremy wondered how in the world Kale works as fast as he does. Meanwhile, Dorothy shouted a quick thanks at the fisher, already untying the rope holding the ship in place. Jeremy was quick to catch up.
"Well, then. Here we go again.", Jeremy sighed as he began to unfurl the sail.
"We really need to talk to Willis about pulling this crap over and over. Either that, or get Kale to put someone else in charge of making sure Willis doesn't dive head-first into the ocean. It's been too often lately, you know?", Dorothy mused, "Whatever is going on in that head of his, it needs to stop."
For Willis, time itself seemed to stop. No thoughts, just fear. A door, a wave of sand. A torrent. When time started again, his legs had already begun sprinting up the rusted staircase without him. As he rushed up to the surface, the events of that day replayed in his mind.
About three days ago, he found that this one was special. A bottom floor, though he wanted to keep exploring, his lantern was on its death bed and he was quite tired himself, so he gave in and decided to save this for another day.
Eventually, he had an opportunity. Willis recalled that Jeremy was going to check on his raft, but as impatiently as he is, Willis set off regardless. Spurred on by the very winds that guided his sail, he raced towards adventure. His raft, fashioned of tatter cloths and splintered plants, the one thing between him and the glistening golden ocean, did not once leave a figment of worry in his heart as he soared. Eventually, sitting upon the horizon, he spots it. Spiking from the sand like the ribs of an enormous beast, concrete carapaces with bones of steel. The rush of exploring the giant's ribcage never lost its appeal to him.
He closed in on one particular rib, the special one. He hopped off, making sure to tie his raft to a nearby hook so it didn't float away. Checking his pack to ensure he didn't forget anything, his mind raced with ideas. What could lie at the bottom? Beyond that door? Excitement gripped him.
He unlatched the lantern from his belt and it flickered on. His sack, tied and slung over his shoulder, he did not again look back as he ventured forth, deeper into the skeleton. Not his first time here, he ignored the dusty tomes and ancient furnishings, the mechanical marvels and the wondrous writings plastered upon the walls. This time, he had a goal.
Rushing down each step, only so carefully so as he didn't trip and fall, he ignored the fascinating relics as they called to him, each story of the skeleton told with haste, yet ignored like the ramblings of an old man. This one is special, repeated in his mind as he ventured deeper down the spine of the earth, deeper than any other before him. With each fragmented shard, he came closer to its source.
He spotted a sign, the marker that this floor was different. The tiles set deeper into he ground than any above. The concrete, more solid than anything on the outside. He began to scour the chamber for secrets. Then, from the corner of this vision, through the dimming light of his lantern, he spotted the outline of a door. A door to what? His mind raced as he stepped forward, reaching for the knob. He yanked the ancient portal open.
A wall of sand returned the gesture, and everything seemed to stop, as though held in place by an increasingly tight string. With a snap, everything came back into motion and to Willis' surprise, his legs had already carried him up the stairs to the next floor. Even though the sand was no longer chasing him, he kept the pace as he rushed all the way to the surface. To his dismay, even in spite of his current state, he was greeted by a very annoyed-looking duo. Upon seeing Willis' terrified expression, though, their expressions changed from annoyance to mild worry. Nothing scared Willis, or so they thought.
"Willis, what happened?", Jeremy asked, half out of his own curiosity and half out of genuine concern.
With a shaky voice, he responded slowly, "There's nothing down there. Nothing but more sand."